Genetic and Chemical Screening Reveals Targets and Compounds to Potentiate Gram-Positive Antibiotics against Gram-Negative Bacteria
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Gram-negative bacteria are intrinsically resistant to a plethora of antibiotics that effectively inhibit the growth of Gram-positive bacteria. The intrinsic resistance of Gram-negative bacteria to classes of antibiotics, including rifamycins, aminocoumarins, macrolides, glycopeptides, and oxazolidinones, has largely been attributed to their lack of accumulation within cells due to poor permeability across the outer membrane, susceptibility to efflux pumps, or a combination of these factors. Due to the difficulty in discovering antibiotics that can bypass these barriers, finding targets and compounds that increase the activity of these ineffective antibiotics against Gram-negative bacteria has the potential to expand the antibiotic spectrum. In this study, we investigated the genetic determinants for resistance to rifampicin, novobiocin, erythromycin, vancomycin, and linezolid to determine potential targets of antibiotic-potentiating compounds. We subsequently performed a high-throughput screen of ∼50,000 diverse, synthetic compounds to uncover molecules that potentiate the activity of at least one of the five Gram-positive-targeting antibiotics. This led to the discovery of two membrane active compounds capable of potentiating linezolid and an inhibitor of lipid A biosynthesis capable of potentiating rifampicin and vancomycin. Furthermore, we characterized the ability of known inhibitors of lipid A biosynthesis to potentiate the activity of rifampicin against Gram-negative pathogens.
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